South African Rugby

Thursday, May 24, 2007

England plumbers and decorators on show this saturday

English flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson admitted that he was braced for a punishing tour to South Africa as he joined a severely-depleted England squad.

The squad, which includes five aged world cup winners, also contain seven uncapped players, including six forwards, nicknamed the "plumbers and decorators β€œin fact the English bookies are giving odds .William Hill rate England as massive underdogs for the first Rugby Union Test against South Africa on Saturday and offer 6/1 for an England victory and 1/12 that the home side are victorious. William Hill is also offering 4/1 that any of England's debutants score a debut try and 5/1 that Andy Farrell scores a try.

"We are going to be hauled out of our comfort zone, but we want to go to South Africa and attack the tour and be positive," said Wilkinson.

"It is about sticking out our chests and being pro-active, rather than just hanging on in there."

Head coach Brian Ashton opted not to select players from Leicester, Wasps or Bath, who all face European finals this weekend, while injuries have sidelined key personnel such as Mike Tindall, Mike Catt and Charlie Hodgson.

The combined effect places added expectancy on players like Wilkinson, whose own injury-plagued career means he has started just three England Tests since the 2003 World Cup final.

England have had a miserable away record with just a solitary victory on the road β€” against Italy β€” in 15 months. and now they are whinging about some bug some of the players have got.

The tour will evoke memories of 1998 when an under-strength England squad embarked on a seven-game southern hemisphere expedition in three countries and lost every match. Which was great to watch?

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